It's safe to say that those caring for children from hard places are naturally inclined to put others before themselves. Stepping into foster care means stepping into ‘survival mode’ while helping children and families in crisis. And when we open our homes to children who have experienced abuse and neglect, we also open our homes to trauma that can be felt by everyone in proximity. It’s good and noble to prioritize the urgent needs of those around us, but how do we make it sustainable?
The burnout rate for foster parents is astronomically high, and as the Caregiver Support Coordinator of Foster Village, I see parents at the end of their ropes every. single. day.
You wake up, put on your invisible cape, and chase after littles all day (or even into the night if you’re dealing with one who refuses to sleep or just can’t because, well, trauma) without taking a single moment for yourself.
And you wouldn’t dare ask for help because “some people just don’t get it,” or you “don’t want to be the needy friend.” We’ve somehow stepped away from this idea that it takes a village to raise a child, when in fact, it really and truly does...even more so for those of us in the fostering world.
Here are four ways to care for you, the caregiver:
- Be Okay with the Unknown: Don’t call your caseworker 10 times before and after a court hearing, and don’t post in your Facebook group to see what’s happened in similar scenarios. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to be okay without knowing what’s going to happen, and being confident in your ability to love on your kiddo regardless of the outcome. Our founder calls this “not riding the roller coaster.” Yes, foster care is a roller coaster. AND we get to choose when and how long to ride it and when to just focus on the present moments.
- Call Your Village: I know it’s been hard to welcome extra hands in this past year, but as restrictions ease, start connecting with families that are in the same boat as you. You need different friends for different situations in your life, and you can’t expect one person to be all the things. Find someone to talk to after court dates, someone to talk to after placements and/or removals, someone to talk to after visits, and someone who can save the day at bath and bedtime when you just simply can’t. It takes a village, so find trusted people and hold them close.
- Continue Your Education: For some crazy reason, parenting isn’t considered a profession, but it should be, right? Invest in yourself as a caregiver, and seek out continuing education to fill your toolbox: webinars, conferences, trainings. Something as simple as gathering together with other parents who just get it can make you feel a lot less overwhelmed and alone.
- Give Yourself Grace: Sometimes just getting through the day without having to complete an accident report is a success. Give yourself grace, and allow space for hiccups and mistakes. If you forget about snack time, or you don’t have the energy to make a completely separate meal for your picky eater, that is okay. Some days are easier than others, and we’ve all had our share of doozies.
Families function better when the powerhouse (that’s you!) is well rested, well supported, and confident in their ability to do their job well. Take time to care for yourself so those around you feel listened to, cared for, and loved!